He poured everything into summer workouts. During the player-run practices, he was soaking in all of the knowledge from players around him. He was always available to run routes with the quarterbacks. He lived in the film room. The Gators will count on McGee this fall, but without the spring to learn the offense on the field, his chances to make an impression were fewer than others.
McGee didn’t want any opportunity to earn the respect of his teammates to go to waste.
“I worked hard this summer, and I think guys saw the way I worked with summer workouts and the conditioning,” Jake McGee said. “It continues to grow as practices go on. I just need to make plays when my number's called and hopefully the respect level and trust level will grow with everyone."
Through the first two days of practice, that trust level from fellow offensive teammates was already high. They saw McGee work in the offseason drills, and early in fall camp, it’s already clear to the rest of the Florida playmakers that McGee will be one of the top pass catchers on the team.
“He’s going to be good,” Florida running back Kelvin Taylor said. “He’s got hands out this world, he’s strong and I feel like he’s going add a different weapon to our offense that probably we haven’t had in like the last two years. I feel like he’s going to be a great player, too.”
The knowledge of the offense continues to be his focus, but McGee assured the media multiple times on Wednesday that he’s already comfortable with the playbook. His hours spent in the film room secured that. Now it’s just the physical repetitions that need to happen, allowing him to get comfortable in the team’s scheme.
He’ll also continue to focus extra time on his blocking and pad level, admitting it’s slightly behind his pass catching ability.
Working with a coach like Kurt Roper makes it easier for McGee. The first-year offensive coordinator was a big reason why McGee picked Florida for his final season of collegiate eligibility, and the relationship they built off the field has been maintained throughout the fall.
“I think Coach Roper is a great coach,” McGee said. “The way he gets it across, guys want to improve with it and get as good as they can without harping on the negatives. He brings all the guys up instead of tearing them down.
"He's just positive. He's been the same guy throughout, which is something you like as a player. When you see how (a coach) is the whole time and he doesn't change much, you know what they want, what they expect."
And that carries through the entire offense. The Gators have a deeper group of playmakers this fall than at any other point under Will Muschamp, and even though the tight end position is an important one that needs to produce more, McGee doesn’t feel the pressure because of other playmakers around him.
“There’s a lot of good players in the locker room,” McGee said. “I’m excited for the work to continue with pads coming on tonight and guys getting as good as they can. There’s a lot of good players in the locker room that can make plays this season.”
The importance of the summer was to build chemistry with quarterback Jeff Driskel during player-run practices. The two lived together during the summer, and they were able to get to know each other off the field, too.
“Jeff is doing a great job leading everybody and taking care of the offense,” McGee said. “Me coming in at the beginning of the summer, he has been great since I got here and I’ve been really impressed with him.”